The Indian Navy will soon equip its domestically-built aircraft carriers with US-based General Atomics’ (GA) new-generation catapult Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) — a quantum leap for the navy that currently relies on Russian ski-launch technology.
Talking to FE, Vivek Lall, Chief Executive, US and International Strategic Development General Atomics Electromagnetics, said: “After concurrence from the US navy and permission to export, the system could provide key benefits to advance the Indian Navy.”
Lall, who visited India as part of the CEO delegation that accompanied US President Barack Obama last week, added: “The system’s flexible architecture allows for integration into a range of platforms with differing catapult configurations, enabling the launch and recovery of a wide variety of aircraft, including unmanned aerial vehicles, to enhance situational awareness. Our integrated system requires fewer personnel to operate and maintain, and provides a more fuel efficient alternative to legacy catapult systems.”
The US government’s permission to export the system to India probably came after PM Narendra Modi and Obama said they would explore ways of sharing aircraft carrier technology, said Lall, whose company has pioneered the technique.
While responding to a question, the CE acknowledged that a significant amount of progress has been made, especially in the defence sector.
“There is potential for GA to establish a joint venture with an Indian counterpart and for this we have been in talks with several companies.”
Modi and Obama called for identification of new areas of technology cooperation through the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI).
The co-development and co-production element also fits into the PM’s ‘Make in India’ development model. “Now defence minister Manohar Parikkar will seek a list of technologies from various departments and which the US can share,” a source said.
GA’s launch system can be used for a variety of warplanes, including jets and drones, unlike existing technology that is more restrictive, Lall said, adding, “We need to design, build, launch and support systems that keep services mission ready, we must develop systems that utilise electric energy more efficiently and are designed to ease maintenance and reduce lifecycle costs. Our products push the boundaries of energy and fuel efficiencies, harsh operational environments, and high reliability standards.”
The existing carriers have a ski-jump design that depends on a warplane’s own thrust to get it aloft, limiting the jets that can be deployed. GA’s system uses electromagnetic force to help propel planes into the sky. It’s being fitted to the Gerald R Ford (CVN 78), the latest generation of US carrier. The system is a highly redundant, modular design with few moving parts.